Melanie Abrams
Julius Addlesee
Shelley Aikens
A. Aimee
Jeanne Ainslie
Fredrica Alleyn
Rebecca Ambrose
Diane Anderson-Minshall
Laura Antoniou
Janine Ashbless
Lisette Ashton
Gavin Atlas
Danielle Austen
J. P. Beausejour
P.K. Belden
Tina Bell
Jove Belle
Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore
Ronica Black
Candace Blevins
Primula Bond
Lionel Bramble
A. J. Bray
Samantha Brook
Matt Brooks
Zetta Brown
James Buchanan
Louisa Burton
Angela Campion
Angela Caperton
Annabeth Carew
Julia Chambers
Dale Chase
M. Christian
Greta Christina
Valentina Cilescu
Rae Clark
NJ Cole
Christina Crooks
Julius Culdrose
Portia da Costa
Alan Daniels
Angraecus Daniels
Dena De Paulo
Vincent Diamond
Susan DiPlacido
Noelle Douglas-Brown
Hypnotic Dreams
Amanda Earl
Hank Edwards
Jeremy Edwards
Stephen Elliott
Madelynne Ellis
Justine Elyot
Aurelia T. Evans
Lucy Felthouse
Jesse Fox
I. G. Frederick
Simone Freier
Louis Friend
Polly Frost
William Gaius
Bob Genz
Shanna Germain
J. J. Giles
Lesley Gowan
K D Grace
K. D. Grace
Sacchi Green
Ernest Greene
Tamzin Hall
R. E. Hargrave
P. S. Haven
Trebor Healey
Vicki Hendricks
Scott Alexander Hess
Richard Higgins
Julie Hilden
E. M. Hillwood
Amber Hipple
William Holden
Senta Holland
David Holly
Michelle Houston
Debra Hyde
M. E. Hydra
Vina Jackson
Anneke Jacob
Maxim Jakubowski
Kay Jaybee
Ronan Jefferson
Amanda Jilling
SM Johnson
Raven Kaldera
J. P. Kansas
Kevin Killian
D. L. King
Catt Kingsgrave
Kate Kinsey
Geoffrey Knight
Varian Krylov
Vivienne LaFay
Teresa Lamai
Lisa Lane
Randall Lang
James Lear
Amber Lee
Nikko Lee
Tanith Lee
Annabeth Leong
James W. Lewis
Marilyn Jaye Lewis
Ashley Lister
Fiona Locke
Clare London
Scottie Lowe
Simon Lowrie
Catherine Lundoff
Michael T. Luongo
Jay Lygon
Helen E. H. Madden
Nancy Madore
Jodi Malpas
Jeff Mann
Alma Marceau
Sommer Marsden
Gwen Masters
Sean Meriwether
Bridget Midway
I. J. Miller
Madeline Moore
Lucy V. Morgan
Julia Morizawa
David C. Morrow
Walter Mosley
Peggy Munson
Zoe Myonas
Alicia Night Orchid
Craig Odanovich
Cassandra Park
Michael Perkins
Christopher Pierce
Lance Porter
Jack L. Pyke
Devyn Quinn
Cameron Quitain
R. V. Raiment
Shakir Rashaan
Jean Roberta
Paige Roberts
Sam Rosenthal
D. V. Sadero
C Sanchez-Garcia
Lisabet Sarai
R Paul Sardanas
R. Paul Sardanas
Elizabeth Schechter
Erica Scott
Kemble Scott
Mele Shaw
Simon Sheppard
Tom Simple
Talia Skye
Susan St. Aubin
Charlotte Stein
C. Stetson
Chancery Stone
Donna George Storey
Darcy Sweet
Rebecca Symmons
Mitzi Szereto
Cecilia Tan
Lily Temperley
Vinnie Tesla
Claire Thompson
Alexis Trevelyan
Alison Tyler
Gloria Vanderbilt
Vanessa Vaughn
Elissa Wald
Saskia Walker
Kimberly Warner-Cohen
Brian Whitney
Carrie Williams
Peter Wolkoff
T. Martin Woody
Beth Wylde
Daddy X
Lux Zakari
Fiona Zedde
Disturbed by Her SongDisturbed by Her Song
By: Tanith Lee
Lethe Press
ISBN: 1590213114
August 2010

Reviewed By: Jean Roberta

If anyone here doesn’t recognize the name of Tanith Lee, she is a legend among fantasy writers and the author of over ninety novels. Her work has been attracting a cult following since the 1970s, when she sold her first book to DAW Press. Her tales are elaborate, but her words are as carefully chosen as precious jewels. Her eccentricities can be forgiven.

As an example of her quirks, she claims that this collection of stories was co-written by two other people. In “Meeting the Garbers,” Tanith Lee claims:

I first met the Garbers in the 1990s; that is, I met Esther [who then ‘wrote’ two books], and her brother, Judas. Anna didn’t turn up, though she subsequently sent me a polite and kindly note.

Why Anna chose to send the author a note instead of “turning up” is a mystery. None of the Garbers (two Jewish sisters and their half-Arabian half-brother, who spells the family name differently) is real. They are two or three alter egos of Tanith Lee.

All the stories in this book include same-sex relationships, so the use of several writing personae (including that of a gay man) serves the illusion that these stories are based on the direct experience of characters other than the author.

One theme that runs through this book is the contrast between youth and age, or between the chutzpah of the young and the world-weariness of those with more experience. In "Black-Eyed Susan," supposedly co-written by Esther Garber, young Esther goes to work as a maid in a shabbily genteel, nearly-empty hotel in a French town in winter. A silent woman with coal-black eyes can be seen walking down the corridors from time to time. Esther wonders if she is a ghost or simply an illusion, but comes to suspect that she is the younger spirit of an old woman who is part of the history of the hotel. In her prime, the dark-eyed woman was sexually attracted to women--like Esther. 

In "Alexandrians," Judas Garbah remembers his neglected childhood in Egypt, and the male friend of his mother who noticed him and explained something:

I'll teach you two new words. A woman who loves another woman is called for an island, Lesbos, a Lesbian. But a man who loves another man is called for Alexander, who was the son of a god, and loved men, and for his city by the sea, Alexandria. . . . Will you be an Alexandrian, Judas?

Judas was unable to answer that question at the time, but as an adult, he remembers this conversation and the tingling touch of the man who paid attention to him.

None of these stories includes explicit sex, but eroticism runs all through them, and desire is shown to be the stuff of life. Yearning for the body and the soul of another person is shown to be the thread that connects the present with the past as it offers a way to transcend each person’s essential isolation.

The title story, "Disturbed by Her Song," is the most haunting. Few writers could describe a one-sided crush at such length so movingly. Georgina, a minor singer/actress, first meets fellow-actress Sula Dale when both are in their twenties. Georgina is impressed with Sula's performance in a classical Greek play. Georgina tries to cultivate a friendship with her, but Sula doesn't respond. Over decades, Georgina dreams about Sula and wishes she could sing for her. After several unsuccessful relationships with other women, Georgina writes a play for Sula to star in. Sula is grateful for the work, but doesn't seem to remember meeting Georgina before.    

The key to the puzzle of this non-relationship is provided by an older man in the theatre world, someone Georgina respects. He tells a story within the story:

“Once upon a time,” Marc said to them. . . “there was a princess, outside whose high bedroom window a nightingale sang every night from a tree, a pomegranate, or perhaps a blossoming plum.

“While the nightingale sang, the princess slept deeply and well. . . However there came a night when the nightingale, for reasons of its own, did not sing but flew far away. In the morning the princess summoned a gardener and commanded that the tree be cut down. He protested, saying the tree was young, healthy and fruitful. But the princess would have none of that. She told him that all that one previous night a nightingale had perched in the tree, and her sleep had been very much disturbed by its song.”

The group of friends who hear this story in a restaurant discuss its meaning. Years later, Georgina remembers the conversation and realizes that she and Sula have each been a kind of absent presence for each other.

Tanith Lee's fiction always has the uncanny quality of dreams and fantasies, even when it seems to take place in the real world. She tells teaching stories whose lessons seem to hover somewhere just out of reach. If you haven't read her work before, you've been deprived.